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Should campaigns pay their interns?

Wednesday, Oct 25, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* From the Illinois Policy Institute’s news service

Illinois’ candidates for governor support making businesses pay higher minimum wages but don’t pay their campaign interns.

J.B. Pritzker, Chris Kennedy, Bruce Rauner, and Daniel Biss have together accumulated more than $100 million in campaign funds with more than a year until the election. All of the Democrat candidates last week expressed support for a higher minimum wage than the $8.25 the state has had since 2010. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. […]

None of their campaigns offer paying internships, including Rauner’s, and none respond Tuesday to requests for comment.

Trevor Smith with the non-profit “Pay Our Interns” said it’s disingenuous when a politician pushes for a minimum wage hike but leaves his interns to work for free.

“If someone is for the ‘Fight for $15′ but doesn’t pay their interns, we see that as someone that’s not truly invested in helping lower income people,” he said. “If they campaign on raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, but then don’t pay their interns behind peoples’ backs, I would call it phony.”

Smith said unpaid internships also perpetuate the wage gap between students that are able to work for no pay for months and those that must support themselves and possibly others. […]

The governor, whose interns also work for free, says he supports a more modest increase of the state’s minimum wage.


  1. - Arsenal - Wednesday, Oct 25, 17 @ 11:23 am:

    That’s funny, I keep hearing the other campaigns grouse that Pritzker’s paying *too many* people.

  2. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Oct 25, 17 @ 11:24 am:

    The idea of volunteering for a cause you believe in is dying

  3. - Sonny - Wednesday, Oct 25, 17 @ 11:26 am:

    Interns should never be work for free. Something is better than nothing and there’s a lot of lessons to be learned from earning even a small wage. I mean prisoners get paid, candidates can buck up and take care of young people.

  4. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Wednesday, Oct 25, 17 @ 11:27 am:

    Interns getting paid would help the economy and lower unemployment.

  5. - Come on Man! - Wednesday, Oct 25, 17 @ 11:28 am:

    Interns should be paid per DOL standard if they are performing tasks that FTE are being paid.

    That said, stipends and college credit should be offered at the very least. Also, it is good to see FOs and finance assistants finally making a living wage as oppose to the sweat shop wages paid as recently as 3-4 cycles ago.

  6. - EVanstonian - Wednesday, Oct 25, 17 @ 11:29 am:

    Do we really want more money in politics?

  7. - Skeptic - Wednesday, Oct 25, 17 @ 11:31 am:

    “The idea of volunteering for a cause you believe in is dying” The idea of being able to volunteer and keep a roof over your head is all but dead.

  8. - BuckinIrish - Wednesday, Oct 25, 17 @ 11:36 am:

    ==The idea of volunteering for a cause you believe in is dying==

    They’re not talking about interns who pop by when they can, they’re talking about young people who show up every single day in the morning and work till night for no payment whatsoever. Because almost every single employer now require an internship before they hire someone, this is more of a requirement now than a choice.

  9. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Oct 25, 17 @ 11:37 am:

    An advantage to having volunteers is knowing they’re likely there because they support the candidate, not just for a paycheck.

  10. - ste_with_a_v_en - Wednesday, Oct 25, 17 @ 11:37 am:

    -Do we really want more money in politics?-
    Better it go to interns than even more TV ads..

  11. - EVanstonian - Wednesday, Oct 25, 17 @ 11:39 am:

    First, unlikely that campaign spending is zero-sum, just means only the well-oiled dialers can compete with the self-funded.

    Second, I’m talking about the growing sense of professionalism that robs democracy of its equitable feeling. Creates a bigger group of people who can pretend like they’re experts in politics because they’ve been paid to work in politics.

  12. - Annonin' - Wednesday, Oct 25, 17 @ 11:40 am:

    wonder if the dark money at IPI goes into their interns pockets?

  13. - IllinoisBoi - Wednesday, Oct 25, 17 @ 11:49 am:

    Volunteers can choose to work for free. Interns should be paid. If they’re not paid, then they’re actually volunteers.

  14. - Chris Widger - Wednesday, Oct 25, 17 @ 12:05 pm:

    It’s not really clear that it’s phony to call for a higher minimum wage and not pay interns, right? You see this same sort of argument whenever Warren Buffett calls for tax reform (in the form of rich folks paying higher taxes) and people say “Well, why don’t you (Buffett) just send more money to the government?” You can call for systemic change and choose not to avail yourself of that change unless your opponents also have to.

    Now, when unions in Los Angeles and San Fran call for a $15 minimum wage and then fight to exempt themselves from it, that’s worth an eyebrow-raising.

  15. - FRB - Wednesday, Oct 25, 17 @ 12:09 pm:

    Absolutely, without a doubt.

    Speaking a former unpaid intern, I’ve always found it hypocritical when politicians (especially Democratic legislators who are in favor raising the minimum wage to $15) talk about the hardships of surviving on the current minimum wage while not paying their interns.

    Politics (campaigns, DC, Springfield, Chicago) runs on unpaid labor. I’ve never seen an unpaid internship that is substantially different than an entry-level paid position (save for — pay!).

    It is immoral to require anyone to work for free.

  16. - Robert the Bruce - Wednesday, Oct 25, 17 @ 12:13 pm:

    Through connections made, and some high-level bosses who can write recommendation letters, interns receive a solid ROI for their time.

    The problem is - it’s only the privileged who can afford to take unpaid internships. And this isn’t a problem limited to the political sector.

  17. - Ghost - Wednesday, Oct 25, 17 @ 12:20 pm:

    These internships are often gateways to paid jobs. Without a salary those from lower economic backgrounds who don’t have the resources to work for free are functionally locked out of the process and the job opportunities.

    Unpaid interns are a vehicle used by the privileged to advance their kids; they should be paid to provide oppoetu it to all.

    That said it’s specious to compare raising poverty level working wages to whether short term inern jobs are paid. Apple’s and oranges.

  18. - 47th Ward - Wednesday, Oct 25, 17 @ 12:23 pm:

    Internships are a trade of labor for experience. Internships should be designed for interns to learn something of value, not necessarily earn something of value. Internships look good on resumes. There are benefits to the intern beyond pay.

    My first job out of college was an unpaid internship and if I had to do it over again, I’d do it exactly the same.

  19. - Lucky Pierre - Wednesday, Oct 25, 17 @ 1:11 pm:

    Of course interns should be paid. The fact that democratic politicians are intent implementing job crushing regulations and a $15 minimum wage on small business but don’t want to practice what they preach and pay their interns is hypocrisy at its worst

  20. - Gooner - Wednesday, Oct 25, 17 @ 1:22 pm:

    Lucky Pierre,

    You raise a good point. Since Mr. Rauner is pushing policies that will cause wages to go down, it is completely consistent that he not pay his interns. As you note, Mr. Rauner is not a hypocrite.


  21. - The Elephant In The Room - Wednesday, Oct 25, 17 @ 2:13 pm:

    Seems like a great idea to everyone that’s never been responsible for a budget. Another paid employee and all the red tape that may bring won’t justify the expense and aggravation that interns often bring. As a result, it will reduce the number of opportunities available to college students. The kids from great schools or a family connection will get paid internships, but community college kids or “state” school kids will find themselves with experience gaps - the very thing an internship is meant to address.

  22. - Anon - Wednesday, Oct 25, 17 @ 2:15 pm:

    > I’ve never seen an unpaid internship that is substantially different than an entry-level paid position (save for — pay!)

    To be fair though, FBR, how different is the work of an entry-level paid position from that of straight up (adult) volunteers? I’d venture a guess that everyone on campaigns knows lots of people who started as honest-to-goodness volunteers and wound up making a living at it because they (1) liked it and (2) were valuable.

    It’s just slightly more complicated than other contexts where the convention is a workplace full of compensated employees. Professionalism on campaigns is always more of a spectrum.

  23. - Been there, done that - Wednesday, Oct 25, 17 @ 2:18 pm:

    Most interns that I have worked with either made minimum wage or got paid a stipend; work this many set hours and get paid this set amount. Of course those stipends are never minimum wage, but legal.
    I am willing to bet that Rauner paid his interns during the last campaign - all with unmarked, prepaid Visa cards. His campaign purchased a ton of them and I don’t remember them ever reporting to the SBoE who they were given to. Am I the only one who remembers this story?

  24. - Educ - Wednesday, Oct 25, 17 @ 2:29 pm:

    Isn’t it the law that they either must be paid or must be receiving college credit?

  25. - Sue - Wednesday, Oct 25, 17 @ 3:27 pm:

    He - but in Illinois family members caring for ill relatives somehow get minimum wage and OT- this is akin to Congress being exempt from Obamacare. If we forced pols to abide by what they force on us maybe the pols would think twice before imposing unreasonable mandates

  26. - Chicago Cynic - Wednesday, Oct 25, 17 @ 3:57 pm:

    LP, you’re hysterical. Seriously, do you read things you comment on? None of the campaigns including Rauner pay their interns. Nor should they for the reasons 47 laid out eloquently above. It’s called paying your dues.

    You take an unpaid internship, get valuable experience and then leverage it into a paying gig. There’s nothing wrong with it. Frankly, Millenials can’t seem to delay gratification and this is just part of that trend.

  27. - Precinct Captain - Wednesday, Oct 25, 17 @ 4:14 pm:


  28. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Oct 25, 17 @ 4:25 pm:

    actually, just call people volunteers. Campaigns are fueled by volunteers. Pritzi can afford to pay his interns anyway.

  29. - DrurysMissingClock - Wednesday, Oct 25, 17 @ 4:27 pm:

    Well, I actually agree with Lucky Pierre for once. Either lead by example or don’t claim to lead.
    Rauner not paying interns makes sense: he wants to destroy the working class, but those who claim to defend it…

  30. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Oct 25, 17 @ 8:04 pm:

    47th Ward’s eloquence:

    Internships are a trade of labor for experience. Internships should be designed for interns to learn something of value, not necessarily earn something of value. Internships look good on resumes. There are benefits to the intern beyond pay.

    And yet Illinois Democrats believe every 16 year old kid with no work experience or any skills should immediately command $15 an hour- more than double Indiana’s minimum wage of $7.25.

    With attitudes like that look for unemployment to rise further and the border towns to become ghost towns.

    I guess teenagers employed by small business, in the private sector, should not have the opportunity to learn something of value, not necessarily earn something of value. Internships look good on resumes. There are benefits to the intern beyond pay.

    Or is it every worker deserves a living wage, unless they are employed by politicians who frequently exempt themselves from the laws they pass like Obamacare?

  31. - Arizona Bob - Wednesday, Oct 25, 17 @ 9:37 pm:

    Interns are making an “investment” of their time. They work for free for the politician, then they’re rewarded with an overpaid patronage job on the taxpayer dime after the election. It prepares them for politicizing their job.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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